Health D-G: No evidence Covid-19 transmitted by food, cook thoroughly to kill any trace of virus

People buying fresh fish at a wet market in Petaling Jaya March 25, 2020.  — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
People buying fresh fish at a wet market in Petaling Jaya March 25, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, May 11 — There is no hard evidence to date suggesting individuals getting infected by Covid-19 as a result of food contamination, Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said today.

Addressing such concerns raised by the public following the closure of several wet markets over a spike in Covid-19 infections and whether such food sources are safe for consumption, Dr Noor Hisham said most importantly was that food we purchased are cooked thoroughly before being consumed.

“So far if we observe, there are no known infections from consuming food. If we look at the poultry factories for example, I think we should wait for a report from the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) whether the virus is associated with chickens.

“What is crucial however, is that we cook the food we buy, so when we cook the virus dies, if there are any. But to date we have no knowledge on whether traces of the virus are found on the food so we will wait for a study by the DVS,” he said during his daily Covid-19 press briefing here.

On a follow-up question whether food purchased from supermarkets is needed to be dried under the sun before consumption, Dr Noor Hisham again stressed the need for food to be thoroughly cooked to get rid of any pathogens.

“Not necessary, it depends on the food as not all of them can be dried. What is important is that we cook the food at a high temperature thereby killing the virus,” he said.

In a World Health Organisation (WHO) advisory, the international public health governing body states that experiences from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses — such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) — showed that transmission through food consumption did not occur.

“Current evidence on other coronavirus strains shows that while coronaviruses appear to be stable at low and freezing temperatures for a certain period, food hygiene and good food safety practices can prevent their transmission through food.

“Specifically, coronaviruses are thermolabile, which means that they are susceptible to normal cooking temperatures of 70°C. Therefore, as a general rule, the consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided,” it said.


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